Airships Set to Take Flight Once Again

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Every year millions of carefree people board cruise ships and never entertain a single thought about the sinking of the Titanic. Same goes for the millions of people everyday who travel and commute via plane, train or automobile. Unless you're severely phobic, chances are transportation disasters are the last thing on your mind as you embark.

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So why then does the mere mention of the blimp and zeppelin industry initiate an echo-chamber where all we hear is "Oh the humanity!". Perhaps we should let bygones be bygones and stop fixating on the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, for the dawn of a new age of 'air vehicles' may soon be upon us.

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British Company, Hybrid Air Vehicles, is leading the charge. They recently pulled down two major commercial deals, potentially indicating that the airship industry may once again be taking flight.

The company's modern airships are composed of semi-rigid lifting balloons, taking 40 percent of their lifting capacity from onboard engines that provide vectored thrust. Helium provides the remain 60 percent for liftoff.

Additionally, fan-equipped pontoons on the underbelly of the hull give the airship the ability to land on grass, concrete or water, without a ground crew.

Hybrid Air Vehicles most lucrative deal is a $517 million contract with Northrop Grumman to supply a Long-Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) to the U.S. Army for deployment in Afghanistan in 2012. The second deal is with Discovery Air Innovations, who has agreed to buy vehicles capable of lifting 50 tons and flying 115 miles per hour.

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The military airships potentially would be used for surveillance and transport, while the Canadian contract intends use the air vehicles to deliver cargo in remote regions of the arctic North.

Hybrid Air Vehicles sees a bright future for their airships. The company seeks to tap the markets of mapping and geographic monitoring, humanitarian aid distribution, offshore drilling and luxury tourism.

[Via GizMag]

Photo: Hybrid Air Vehicles